Estonian ex-minister: Many Reform Party members not satisfied with PM

  • 2023-11-21
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The outcome of the election of the leader of the Reform Party on Saturday showed that a significant number of Reform Party members are not satisfied with Kaja Kallas, MP Liina Kersna, deputy head of Reform's parliamentary group and former minister of education and research, said on a webcast of Postimees.

"The election result showed that there is a significant amount of dissatisfaction also among the members of the party and that trust has declined," Kersna said.

She recalled that Kallas received over a thousand votes in the party's internal polls in 2018, almost a thousand votes in 2020, and just 636 votes this time.

"So it can't be said that party members didn't show what they they think. A significant number of party members are more distrustful than they used to be," Kersna said.

She said both the decline in support for the prime minister and the decline in support for the Reform Party are definitely linked to the government's decisions.

"At the same time, we cannot overlook the personal scandals of the prime minister, which have affected both her credibility and the party's rating," Kersna noted.

She said Estonia is currently in a situation where the Riigikogu is essentially paralyzed.

"This is a moment when the state budget needs to be adopted. If someone had run against Kallas for the chairmanship of the Reform Party and had won the election, they would have become prime minister as well. However, a change of prime minister would have led to the resignation of the government," Kersna noted, stressing that in the current situation, provoking a government crisis is not very responsible. 

There are usually two ways for prime ministers to leave office, the ex-minister said.

"They either decide to leave office themselves, as Andrus Ansip did, for example, by saying that Estonian society is probably so fed up with him after almost a decade as prime minister that he doesn't want this suffering for Estonia to continue, or Juri Ratas, who resigned himself. The other option is that the prime minister is censured. By which option Kallas will leave one day, we cannot say now," Kersna said.

Speaking about the controversy over teacher salaries, Kersna said that one should have avoided ending up in a situation like this in the first place.

"Currently, the average salary of a teacher equals 111.5 percent of the national average. The government has already decided that 23.7 million euros will be added to teacher salaries, which means a 4.3 percent increase in the payroll. Unfortunately, the ratio to the average will then drop to 109.5 percent. The minister of education could have immediately found that part of the necessary amount in the ministry's resources that was not received from the government. Then the average would have been as high as today, or even higher. The necessary amounts are by no means large, it's 15-16 million euros and it would be possible to find it in the field of the Ministry of Education," she said. 

"That's the compromise that I'd go and offer to the educators' union. It is irresponsible to create an expectation that the government could make long-term promises now," Kersna added.